Commentary Football

Commentary: UH football opener disappoints in multiple aspects

Moments that combine the big stage with the pomp and circumstance of a stadium opening don’t often happen in college football — especially at programs like UH.


With a record-setting crowd, the Cougars failed to impress as the season opener was filled with turnovers and poor play. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

For the Cougars, who have bounced between national prominence, mediocrity and even irrelevancy during the past decade, the opening of TDECU Stadium was supposed to be a crowning event.

Instead, the Cougars laid an egg in front of their largest ever on-campus crowd, including more than 10,000 students as well as a national television audience.

UTSA defeated UH 27-7 in the inaugural game at TDECU Stadium on Friday.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat things; it’s a very disappointing start to our season,” said head coach Tony Levine.

The Roadrunners’ winning formula was simple — they controlled the line of scrimmage, ran the football and won the turnover battle.

Sophomore quarterback John O’Korn tossed four interceptions, the Cougars lost two fumbles and turned the ball over on downs twice. A team that led the nation in turnover margin last season lost the battle 6-1 against UTSA.

The Cougars didn’t score a point until there were less than two minutes left in the game and narrowly avoided their first shutout since a 48-0 loss to Texas in 2000.

“The turnovers were big. I felt that their defensive line and defense deserve a lot of credit; they controlled the line of scrimmage, and they took away our running game. We were playing from behind pretty early in the game, and we became one-dimensional, never got into a rhythm and I think there’s no more to be said about that,” Levine said.

The defense made some plays, but couldn’t overcome the short fields provided by turnovers and the length of time spent on the field. For three quarters, UH corralled UTSA’s short passing game and slowed the running game, but it wasn’t enough.

“I think we are a great team, (but) we had some miscues. It makes it harder to win. We have to learn from our mistakes and bounce back from them,” said senior defensive end Joey Mbu.

UH’s loss alone was not disappointing. UTSA is a talented veteran team expected to be a Conference USA contender.

But it was poor performance for a program that has struggled in money moments during the past half-decade.

In 2011 it was a 49-28 loss to Southern Miss in the C-USA title game that would have thrust UH into a BCS game. In 2012, with electricity in Robertson Stadium surrounding the Cougars after a 13-1 season, it was a loss to Texas State in its first game as an FBS school. In 2013, despite a turnaround from 5-7 in 2012, UH couldn’t finish games against good teams and lost to arguably the five best teams on its schedule.

But Friday’s loss was the most disappointing for its off-the-field significance — UH lost more than a football game.

Though the tailgating, turnout and atmosphere were great, TDECU Stadium’s opening will always be tied to a drubbing.

It was a lost chance for UH to elevate its profile. Located in the press box were affiliates from Sports Illustrated, ESPN, CBS Sports and every major local media outlet. Instead of discussing a win in a beautiful new stadium, everyone is talking about an ugly loss in a beautiful new stadium or not mentioning UH at all.

It was a lost chance to invigorate the fan base. Folks in the Bayou City only support a winner, unless you’re the Houston Texans or a high school football team. So retaining the casual UH fan could be tough.

The momentum gained from an 8-5 season where the Cougars had one of the best defensive turnarounds in the nation and a young quarterback that set freshman records was halted.

From a football perspective, though, the Cougars still have a chance to bounce back. The team has 11 games including the entire conference season to fulfill the promise that was expected by fans, media, coaches and players before the games began.

The Cougars have a veteran defense adept at creating turnover to go along with a talented quarterback and group of skill position players.

But, as UTSA proved at TDECU Stadium, games aren’t won on paper.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said UH lost the turnover battle 5-1. The Cougars lost the turnover battle 6-1.

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  • There is no dishonor losing to a good football team. Like it or not, the Roadrunners are good. They will likely win the Western Conference of CUSA while the Cougars compete for the championship of their conference.
    When the Roadrunners beat Arizona on Thursday night, this loss won’t sting so badly.

    • No. UTSA is not “good.” I don’t care how many seniors they have on their team or who their coach is. It’s an embarrassment no matter which way you cut it.

      • While UTSA isn’t Alabama or Oregon, they are a pretty good team. They almost beat Arizona (Pac 12 school). We have a better team and should have won, but lets not act like we lost to a Div 2 team…

  • Clearly not only was the football team not ready for prime time the stadium itself was not close to being prepared. The crowd control at the students entrance was nothing but shear chaos. Instead of forcing the que into a single orderly line at econ 2 there was pushing and shoving creating an absolute mess with those from the back of the line jumping to the front. To the U of H students credit there was no fights. The University needs to be better prepared in the future. We entered the line at 5:00 pm and did not get into the stadium until 7:45pm. Even the concessions where not prepared. About half way through the 2nd quarter I went to get popcorn only to be told they were out- OMG OUT OF POPCORN OF ALL THINGS!!!!! Hopefully by next Saturday they will get their stuff together both on the field and in the stands.

  • I have a lot of confidence in our Athletic Director and coaches but I can not understand, when a game is so significant as this one, that no one makes an attempt to at least try another quarterback until it is too late. It is impossible to do worse, so why not try. I would like to have the hope that if the same situation develops next time, that better decisions will prevail.

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